One week, three races

2015-10-08, , , , Comments

Last year I DNF the Cardiff half marathon. This year I went one worse and DNS the Swansea half. Consequently I was determined to turn up in good shape to complete this year’s Cardiff half.

Racing the week before probably wasn’t a great idea … but the race happened to be a short one and close to home … and the weather was perfect … and I hadn’t raced in a while … and Alex didn’t have a rugby game and … well, I went!

Llandmadoc is the first fixture of the West Glamorgan cross country league. It’s four and a half miles, out along a woodland trail then back on the beach. I tried to run within myself on the outward section and fell in with Peter Osborne, another V50 who I’ve battled with on several occasions. He upped the pace as we hit the sloping sand around the point and then he was gone. Coming back along the beach in the blazing sun, there was a gap of 50m to the next group of runners — a gap I reduced but never closed. Despite my conservative start, when we went through the wet sand I felt as energetic as one of the many stranded jellyfish which littered the course.

I finished 19th in a time of 28:32, officially first in my category but second really since Peter beat me and he’s an age band up.

Me and Raul at the finish, Llanmadoc XC

I avoided the track training session with Bristol and West on Monday evening — the same session, last year, had been one too many. If I’d had doubts about running the cross country race just a week before the half marathon, my main target for the year, then I had real concerns about testing myself at the Aztec West 5K on the Tuesday. I felt I was running well and knew a PB was possible on the fast Aztec West course, but did I want to know just how well I was running? A slow time would have rocked my confidence before Sunday’s longer race.

Well, I went. As for times, I had no idea during the race because I forgot my watch. In contrast to Llanmadoc, my legs felt strong, decidedly sprightly in fact. I settled in with Will Smith and Paul Deaton, friends from Southville Running Club, and we barreled round the three lap course, overtaking some very decent runners who’d started more quickly.

SRC at Aztec West 5k

SRC at Aztec West 5k

Will accelerated with 200m to go, attacking the next three runners, and Paul went with him. I let them go. After the final sharp left, Paul faded, enough encouragement for me to sprint past him. When the results were announced I discovered I’d won the V50 category with a PB of 17:22.

Charge for the line

So, Cardiff. The race is bigger than ever — twenty two thousand entrants in 2015. Despite this, it was straightforward getting to the start line warmed up and ready. The elite athletes (including me!) have their own baggage drop round the back of the castle in Bute Park. From there, it’s a short stroll to the right start pen.

I didn’t think I set off too quickly but my 10K time was 37:10, on target for a 78:30 finish. I guess my legs were still dialled into my 5K pace. Ifan had set out even more quickly, but I caught him around the half way point. In a half marathon I usually feel a glow during the middle of the event; the sensation that I’m going fast, but at a sustainable tempo. This time, the sensation never came. I wasn’t glowing, I was aching. Enduring. Maintaining a steady pace seemed impossible and I found myself repeatedly dropping then being passed by the same group of runners. Why couldn’t we team up and work together? I went through 10 miles in 1:00:25, still on course for a personal best but hurting badly. Ifan went past me again at around mile 11. I didn’t even try and go with him. My muscles were sore, my feet were sore. I knew I’d complete the course but I was no longer shooting for a personal best; I just wanted to finish without losing too much time. Actually, I just wanted to finish.

On the final turn I realised that 80 minutes was still on and managed to sprint for the line. My time, 79:43, was just 7 seconds off my PB.